Okay, I'm not yet at the end of Part 2, I'm up to the beginning of Chapter 14 in the middle section but I have some notes to start us off with.
Page 328 - Tengo's girlfriend is obsessed with his balls. Always cupping, massaging his testicles.
Tengo is writing the story of Aomame. Disappearance of Fuka-Eri doesn't register in Aomame's world, also the novel Air Chrysalis about the Little People. Wouldn't it catch her (Aomame's) attention? [Later, it is referenced. I've just finished an Aomame chapter where she has had an extended conversation with a man she's been sent to kill; the leader of the cult. He talks about the Little People, talks about reality shifts and time shifts and I found it hard to follow.]
I've also got a note about Aomame's face, that there was a reference very early on about there being possibly something wrong with it, that she has to keep the expression neutral otherwise it will become frightening to people if they see it. I remember now this was an early hint (for me) that there was something strange about her, more strange perhaps than what has been revealed thus far about her character, history, thought processes.
I'm trying to find the description of her face and I'm re-reading the opening pages where she's in the taxi. I'm also listening to Janacek's Sinfonettia. Several things which I half noticed when first reading are now seeming more suggestive:
1. Aomame has no idea how she recognises the piece of music - Sinfonettia. While the text tells us she loves history as much as she loves sports, and that she doesn't read fiction, it's clear she knows about the Czech composer and his piece of music that is playing in the cab. As she listens to the music, she thinks
Why, though, Aomame wondered, had she instantly recognized the piece to be Janacek's Sinfonettia? And how did she know it had been composed in 1926? She was not a classical music fan, and she had no personal recollections involving Janacek, yet the moment she heard the opening bars, all her knowledge of the piece came to her by reflex, like a flock of birds sweeping through an open window. The music gave her an odd, wrenching kind of feeling. There was no pain or unpleasantness involved, just a sensation that all the elements of her body were being physically wrung out.
The mention above of no personal recollections makes me wonder whether there is some kind of collective memory at work here? Or has she begun her shift to another version of herself?
2. The taxi is described as no ordinary cab and there is no visible identity papers/card for the driver. When she asks him about the traffic jam, when she asks him how he knows it's an accident without listening to a traffic report, he says
You can't trust them... They're half lies The Expressway Corporationg only releases reports that suit its agenda. If you really want to know what's happening here and now, you've got to use your own eyes and your own judgment.
Shades of Big Brother here?
Then when she gets out of the car to go to the ladder, he says
... remember: things are not what they seem.
I've found the description of her face
A detailed examination of her face from the front would reveal that the size and shape of her ears were significantly different, the left one much bigger and malformed. No one ever noticed this, however, because her hair nearly always covered her ears. Her lips formed a tight straight line, suggesting that she was not easily approachable. Also contributing to this impression were her small, narrow nose, somewhat protruding cheekbones, broad forehead, and long, straight eyebrows. All of these were arranged to sit in a pleasing shape, however, and while tastes differ, few would object to calling her a beautiful woman. The one problem with her face was its extreme paucity of expression. Her firmly closed lips only formed a smile when absolutely necessary. Her eyes had the cool, vigilant stare of a superior deck officer. Thanks to these features, no one ever had a vivid impression of her face. She attracted attention not so much because of the qualities of her features but rather because of the naturalness and grace with which her expression moved. In that sense, Aomame resembled an insect skilled at biological mimicry. What she most wanted was to blend in with her background by changing colour and shape, to remain inconspicuous and not easily remembered. This was how she had protected herself since childhood.
Whenever something caused her to frown or grimace, however, her features underwent dramatic changes. The muscles of her face tightened, pulling in several directions at once and emphasizing the lack of symmetry in the overall structure. Deep wrinkles formed in her skin, her eyes suddenly drew inward, her nose and mouth became violently distorted, her jaw twisted to the side, and her lips curled back, exposing Aomame's large white teeth. Instantly she became a wholly different person, as if a cord had broken, dropping the mask that normally covered her face. The shocking transformation terrified anyone who saw it, so she was careful never to frown in the presence of a stranger. She would contort her face only when she was alone or when she was threatening a man who displeased her.
This frightening distortion of her face is intriguing, and since this passage on page 11 of my copy, there has been no further mention. Nor of her deformed ear, something else that is interesting. Will it become significant? In a book where so many other things are repetitively stated, Tengo's size and strength, Fuka-Eri's idiosyncrative speech patterns, the German Shepherd's penchant for raw spinach, the job of Tengo's father, all seemingly innocuous, why are these two things to do with Amomame's appearance mentioned once and once only?
I love it.
There is a description of a business card. In Japan, business cards have surnames first and then given names but in this instance it's the other way round. Murakami would not make such a mistake? Was it in translation? Or deliberate? Sloppy?
Creepy artistic grants worker Ushikawa tells Tengo that time and freedom are the most important things a person can buy with money. This is true for a writer, but is it true for other people?
Ushikawa visits the cram school, he's described like a shambolic type of Columbo character. I expected him to be a detective and was delighted when he was unexpectedly revealed to be a grants officer. Loved the unpredictability of this.